Forget electricity, cars of the future could run on air.
India-based Tata Motors claims that it has successfully demonstrated a compressed air engine and is now looking to develop a market-ready product. The concept for the air-powered car is not a new one, but Tata, which holds the license for Motor Development International’s (MDI) air engine technologies, may be the first firm to bring the idea to fruition.
The pneumatic motor, or compressed air engine, is similar in many ways to the internal combustion engine. Both varieties use pistons to turn a crankshaft and subsequently power the vehicle. While the internal combustion engine uses fuel to force the pistons to move, the pneumatic motor uses air.
There are a quite a few limitations to the air-powered car, however. As Jesse Emspak of Discovery News points out, compressed air engines can only power a car at speeds of about 30 to 35 miles per hour, meaning they would need to be powered by an onboard electric or gas air compressor.
Another issue is range and the amount of air that can be stored in a single tank. The tanks themselves would need to be extremely strong and filling them could take hours at a time.
While Tata has not announced the details of its compressed air engine, it seems likely that the company has tackled at least some of these issues in order to make a marketable product.